Make Sure Variable Expenses Don’t Derail Your Budget With These 4 Tips

Every month when I go to pay my electric bill, I’m hit with a surprise.

Sometimes it’s a pleasant one, like this month when I only had to pay $ 57. But last August my bill was $ 127. That surprise was less welcomed.

Bills and other expenses that fluctuate from month to month can wreak havoc on anyone’s budget. How do you prepare for costs that don’t stay the same?

Getting caught off guard by the unexpected is a part of life, but there are ways to manage those variable expenses you regularly encounter.

Identifying Your Variable Expenses

Variable expenses are your regular expenditures that fluctuate in cost from month to month.

Examples of variable expenses include groceries, dining out, utilities, gas, personal care items, household supplies, medical/health expenses, entertainment, clothing, babysitting, ride sharing, gifts and donations.

Variable expenses can be essential, like in the case of groceries, utility bills and gas. Other variable expenses — dining out, entertainment and gifts, for example — should be considered  optional, or discretionary, spending.

Variable expenses differ from your fixed expenses, which stay the same over time. Fixed expenses could also be essential — such as your rent, car payment or student loan — or discretionary, like cable, Netflix or a gym membership.

Fixed costs are simple to budget for. You know exactly how much your rent or cable bill will be each month. Variable expenses, on the other hand, are trickier.

4 Ways to Budget for Variable Expenses

Budgeting for variable expenses is an inexact science, but there are ways to make it easier.

1. Use the Average of Your Expenses

Prepare for fluctuating costs by calculating what you spend on average in a given budget category and use that as a baseline in your budget.

To find your average spend, add up everything you spent on say, groceries, over the past year and divide by 12. You could also use the average of three or four months, but it won’t be as comprehensive.

There will be months when you spend more and months when you spend less. That’s why it’s important to set money aside to account for those fluctuations. Money experts refer to this practice as setting up a sinking fund.

During the months when you spend less than average, you’ll divert the extra money into your sinking fund. Then when a higher bill comes along — like my electric in the height of summer in Florida — you can pull from those savings to make up the difference.

2. Treat Variable Expenses Like Fixed Expenses

You have no control over whether gas prices will jump up or if your babysitter will suddenly want a buck more per hour. But you can do your best to stick to consistent spending limits for your variable expenses whenever possible.

Use the cash envelope system to adhere to the spending limits you set for your variable expenses. For example, you might stick $ 100 in an envelope for dining out. Once you’ve used all the cash in the envelope, no more spending on restaurants until it’s time to refill the envelope.

Pro Tip

Ask your utility companies if they offer a plan where you pay a flat amount each month based on average usage. Then you aren’t surprised with a major increase (or decrease) from month to month.

3. Inflate Estimated Costs for Your Variable Expenses

a woman looks at her receipt from Trader Joe's in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Another way to deal with fluctuating monthly expenses is to give yourself a spending cushion by budgeting for more than you think you’ll spend. For example, if you regularly spend between $ 250 to $ 300 a month on groceries, budget $ 325 or $ 350. That should be enough money to buy food for the month without breaking your budget (and without having to do any math).

This approach only works if you have enough wiggle room in your budget. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you have zero emergency savings, you’re better off sticking to a budget that’s more strict.

If you inflate your projected costs, it’s likely you’ll have some money left over at the end of the month. You could put that cash toward savings, paying off debt or maybe just pocket it for something fun — totally up to you.

4. Do Your Best to Plan in Advance

Of course, you don’t have a crystal ball to predict what your variable expenses will be to the last cent. But you can try to anticipate expenses in advance. Don’t let yourself be surprised by what you could have planned for.

When you sit down to create your budget for the month, take a moment to think about the things you’ll do during the next few weeks. Is there a movie coming out that you’ve been dying to see? Add the cost of movie tickets, popcorn and drinks to your entertainment budget. Is a friend’s birthday coming up? Budget some money to go out and celebrate.

Get as detailed as you can so your budget will be as accurate as possible.

Don’t Let Variable Expenses Throw You Off Budget

The unpredictable factor of variable expenses may drive you crazy, but there’s one good thing about those costs not being set in stone: You can usually find ways to lower them.

Use coupons when shopping and check rebate sites after you’ve made your purchases. Adjust the temperature on your thermostat and water heater to reduce your utility costs. Make your own cleaning supplies. Organize a potluck dinner during the next holiday, instead of cooking (and buying) everything yourself. The saving possibilities are wide.

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Buying generic brands is one thing she does to lower the cost of her variable expenses.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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Leather Jackets For Guys Who Aren’t Sure About Leather Jackets

Before the 1940s, leather motorcycle jackets were seen as culturally neutral, utilitarian garments. At the time, American motorcycle clubs were considered like any other social club — they were loosely organized associations through which young people could bond over shared interests. Taking part was considered a normal, healthy activity.

That all changed in the summer of 1947, when about 4,000 motorcycle enthusiasts roared into the small California farming town of Hollister. They came for the annual Gypsy Tour, a three-day carnival of races and field events held over a Fourth of July weekend. Hollister was completely unprepared for the attendees that summer, since nowhere near that number showed up to previous years’ carnivals, and consequently, the small rural community was thrown into chaos.

Over the course of three days and nights, bikers representing groups such as The 13 Rebels, The Pissed Off Bastards, and The Galloping Goose got drunk, brawled in the streets, smashed up bars and storefront windows, and participated in illegal drag races. They slept in haystacks, on sidewalks, and on people’s lawns. Hollister’s seven-man police force tried to keep things under control, but they mostly watched in horror as crazed, drunken crowds took over neighborhoods. By the end of the weekend, after state troopers were called in, about fifty bikers were arrested and sixty people were injured (one person had a skull fracture). The streets were awash in urine, beer bottles, and debris.

Shortly after, Life Magazine published a story about the event titled “Cyclist’s Holiday: He and Friends Terrorize Town.” One of the main photos was of a young biker, later believed to be Eddie Davenport, slouched astride his Harley Davidson, shirt open, and surrounded by broken beer bottles. He was wearing what looks to be a naval deck jacket, possibly a clue that he was one of the many ex-servicemen who joined motorcycle clubs after returning home from the Second World War. There’s some debate about whether media coverage afterward exaggerated the amount of violence and damage, but nevertheless, the event forever clouded the lens through which the non-riding public would see black leather jackets.



After 1947, black leather jackets became the second skin of rebels — a symbol anti-conformist lifestyles, restlessness, and lawlessness. Small town residents worried about motorcycle “hoodlums” and potential rampages. Marlon Brando cemented the image of the leather-clad rebel in his role in the 1953 film The Wild One. “Brando’s pebble-kicking stride, his insolent sneer, the rakish angle of his cap, and the casual straddle of his bike, identify him as a challenger of society’s values,” Bruce Boyer wrote in his book Rebel Style. “[The Wild One] clearly shows the opening chasm between the middle class, concerned with refinement and decorum, and the outsiders who show their disdain for the status quo.” The Twilight Zone later had an episode where three leather-jacket-wearing, motorcycle riding strangers invade a peaceful neighborhood (they were later revealed to be aliens). Leather jackets have been part of every rebel subculture since — bikers, rockers, and outlaws; beats and beatniks; modernists and mods; hippies and bohemians; punks and skinheads.

Those rebel associations hold remarkably strong today, even when conservative, establishment figures such as Cindy McCain and Sarah Palin wear black motorcycle jackets on TV talk shows. They’re also the reason why guys often pause when buying their first leather. They’re expensive, for one, and there’s always that nagging feeling that you might not be a “leather jacket kind of guy.” We like them because of their dark and dangerous associations, but worry that we’ll just end up looking like poseurs.

So, what to do if you’re interested in a leather jacket, but aren’t sure if the style is right for you? Like reading formality in suits and sport coats, there’s a language in leather jackets that can swing them towards different aesthetic directions. Whether you prefer something a little more fashionable and modern, or traditoinal and conservative, there’s assuredly something out there for you. Here are some things to consider:


Pick a General Style

The first thing to remember is that leather is like any other material, such as wool, cotton or linen. It can be used to make nearly any style of outerwear, from dressy to rugged, traditional to the avant-garde. Broadly speaking, most leather jackets will fall into one of two traditions:

Flight Jackets: Flight jackets were originally made for the hide-busting activity of piloting aircrafts, but civilians have been repurposing bombers for almost a hundred years. The original pilot jacket was the A-1. The American Air Force originally spec’d it in a lighter weight capeskin, then finished the collar, hem, and cuffs with a knitted trim. The style’s most distinguishable characteristics include the button-front, which runs from the hem to the collar, and the stand-up knitted collar that helps frame the face. The A-1, however, was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2.

During the Second World War, the US military issued thousands of A-2s to fighter pilots. The jacket’s design replaced the button-front of the A-1 with a zipper and storm flap, and then changed out the stand-up knitted collar in favor of a shirt-style leather collar. The shoulders were given passants; the hem and cuffs retained their windproof knitted trims. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic — for many, it is the leather jacket. Like most bomber styles, the traditional A-1 and A-2 have blousy, slightly rounded silhouettes, although they generally look great on most men regardless of age or fitness.

By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring, but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. The A-1 makes more of a statement while still hewing traditional. For something a little less common, you can hunt for a G-1 or MA-1. The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap, and it features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. The MA-1, meanwhile, was originally a nylon, synthetic-fill, knit-collared jacket developed for the pilots. MA-1s became popular with punk rock kids and skinheads in the 1970s and early 1980s, and in leather form, they become a little more fashion forward.



Motorcycle Jackets: Classic leather jacket styles often come out of the very practical purpose of driving or piloting some large piece of machinery. For moto styles, the earliest forms were actually repurposed A-1s, which drivers used to wear over their suits and sport coats. But as motor vehicles improved in performance during the inter-war years, and more men drove them, there was greater demand for tougher garments and different styles. Soon, Harley Davidson started producing a variety of “genuine” motorcycle jackets, and big retailers such as Sears, Robuck & Co., Montgomery Ward, and JC Penney added a section of “sport leather jackets” to their catalogs.

This is when we start seeing things such as the double-rider and cafe racer. Double-riders derive from “lancer-front” motorcycle jackets, which feature a kind of double-breasted closure (where one side of the jacket overlaps with the other). Eventually, this style made it into asymmetrical zippered form, most iconically represented through Schott’s Perfecto (pictured on George above). Sometimes these styles have details such as snap-down passants, metal-buckled belts, D-shaped pockets, and fur collars. All things equal, the double-rider, particularly in black, is the most “aggressive” of all leather jacket styles, if only because of its connection to motorcycle culture and rock ‘n roll, but in softer leather forms, it’s also commonly used for fashion purposes.

If double riders are too much for you, try a cafe racer, which is notable for its visual minimalism. The style was originally worn on circular or oval race courses comprised of wooden planks, where oil slick tracks demanded some kind of protection. Racers often wore flimsy, tight fitting, unlined leather racing shirts, which at some point metamorphized into the famous Buco J-100 and eventually what we now call a cafe racer. The style is typically sculptured to give a close fit, although not as close as early 20th-century shirt-style versions, and features zippered body pockets, zippered sleeves, and a simple, symmetrical zip front. Some have a reverse box pleat at the back to allow for easier movement on a motorcycle, although it’s not uncommon to see a plain back on fashionable cafe racers.

Other Styles: Flight and motorcycle styles aren’t the only leathers.  There are about a dozen more that reach various categories. To run through a few.

  • Classic and Contemporary: Varsity jackets, baseball jackets, and trucker styles occasionally come in leather. These styles are traditionally made from softer materials, such as cotton or satin, but in leather, they can feel a little more rugged or luxurious, depending on the detailing. Generally speaking, these styles are better suited to classic or contemporary wardrobes.
  • Fencing: Adopted from a softer style of outerwear worn by fencers, leather fencing jackets usually have asymmetrical closures and a high collar. The style is much more avant-garde than what we normally write about here at Put This On, but goes well with dark, arte povera-inspired clothes from brands such as Rick Owens, Carol Christian Poell, and M.A+.
  • Workwear: Nearly every leather jacket roots back to some utilitarian design, but styles such as the grizzly jacket, field jacket, Cossack, and more unusual moto styles such as those inspired by the Belstaff Roadmaster are often more rugged than most.
  • Tailored: Mostly relics of the 1970s, styles such as the leather sports coat, leather trench, and three-quarters length leathers are true high-risk, low-reward items. It’s possible to wear these things well, but they require such specific requirements, it may be better to look for something else.

Tip: If you’re not sure about leather jackets, stick to the A-1, A-2, and cafe racer styles. Depending on their details, those can be more conservative and classic than most, making them suitable for casual offices and nights out on the weekend.



Pick a Material

The styles listed above are just the general templates for leather jacket design. The rest comes down to the material and detailing, which can swing a jacket towards different directions — classic or fashion-forward, dressy or rugged, aggressive or conservative. Let’s first start with the leather:

  • Lambskin: Typically the softest and lightest of all leathers, lambskins are supple and luxurious feeling. They usually have very little grain, which makes them very smooth (with some exceptions, such as Rick Owens’ blistered lamb). They can be a little fragile, but unless you’re actually piloting planes or riding motorcycles, they’re fine for most lifestyles. Just don’t, you know, go scraping this against a stucco wall.
  • Calfskin and Goatskin: A lot can depend on the tannery, but generally speaking, calfskins and goatskins are a little harder wearing than lambskin. They’re still fairly lightweight and supple, but they’re more tear resistant (although, at the same time, they don’t have the same buttery feel of lambskin). Calfskin is generally a smooth leather unless it’s been put through a finishing process. Goatskin, on the other hand, typically has a visible grain. Much like how Scotch and pebble grain shoes are a little more casual than calfskin footwear, goatskin leathers will also look a little less refined and dressy than lamb.
  • Cowhide and Horsehide: The toughest and hardest wearing of all leathers. Original flight and motorcycle jackets were typically made from these heavier leathers, as well as goatskin, so they could offer more protection and stand up to daily use. These leathers will generally develop more “character” over time, whereas lambskin looks best when it’s in like-new condition. Cowhide and horsehide are good for guys who really want to feel their jacket on their shoulders, have something they can wear in tougher environments, and see how the leather breaks in over time.
  • Suede: Almost any leather can be made into a suede. Sometimes it’s a reverse suede, which means it’s just the underside of a smoother leather; sometimes the top of a smoother leather has been sanded down to reveal its fiber core. Suede jackets are a nice way to add texture to an outfit, and they can look a little more approachable, but they stain easily and aren’t easy to clean. Be careful of getting one in a style that doesn’t lend itself well to patinas.

When choosing a style, think of how a jacket’s design template and material come together in a way that works for your lifestyle and wardrobe. A rugged jacket, such as a goatskin bomber or cowhide cafe racer, can be worn with jeans, fatigues, and workwear-styled chinos. Dressier, slightly more conservative designs, such as a lambskin A-2 or cafe racer, on the other hand, can be worn with tailored trousers and dress shirts. In the photo of the Stoffa jacket above, you can see what a difference lambskin can make even for the most rugged of all styles, the double rider. Suddenly, the jacket transforms into something else — less workwear, a little more refined.

Tip: Again, if you’re worried about whether a leather jacket can work for you, pick a softer, more approachable leather, such as lambskin, calfskin, or even suede. Those will generally look less “aggressive.” A heavier, more rugged leather such as cowhide, can be paired with a cafe racer or A-2 bomber style for a very classic look if you’re cautious about looking overly fashion forward.



Pay Attention to the Fit and Details

Lastly, pay attention to a jacket’s fit and detailing. A very traditional style, such as a cafe racer, can be modernized with a softer, lambskin leather, bell-shaped sleeves, slim-fit body, and long, diagonal chest zips, such as the Margiela jacket you see above. The same style can be made from a heavier leather, fitted with a traditional silhouette, and come with traditional detailing, such as an Aero Board Racer. The first will be more contemporary and easier to wear with both jeans and tailored trousers. The second is a little more classic and better suited to traditional combinations, such as jeans and t-shirts.

When shopping for your first leather jacket, think of how you plan to wear it. Do you need something with a lot of abrasion resistance, or do you plan to mostly wear this to the office? Would you characterize your wardrobe as classic or contemporary, rugged or refined? Do you want something that you can wear with both jeans and tailored trousers? Do you want something that patinas over time or something that stays looking fairly new and fresh? Will you wear this in the winter time or summer? Do you want something thick and heavy, or soft and light?

Once you have a sense of what you’re looking for, shop first at the brands or stores where you normally buy your other clothes. A trad-y guy in button-downs and flat front chinos may find his perfect leather at shops such as Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren. A guy who favors classic-contemporary clothes might want to look at the selection of Golden Bear and Valstar jackets at Mr. Porter and No Man Walks Alone. Workwear aficionados will probably like RRL, Fine Creek Leathers, and Schott.

Tip: Most guys will look good in a Valstarino, which is a citified, Italian version of a traditional American A-1 jacket. It’s a style that goes well with slim-straight jeans, flat front chinos, and even tailored trousers. It’s something you can wear to work and weekends, and it’s light enough for spring and fall. The silhouette is a little rounded, so if you prefer a slimmer look, try a cafe racer. Aero’s Board Racer is great with jeans, while Brooks Brothers often has racer styles that can be worn in more conservative environments. Todd Snyder, Enrico Mandelli, Taylor Stitch, Sandro, and Falcon Garments are also worth a look.

The post Leather Jackets For Guys Who Aren’t Sure About Leather Jackets appeared first on Put This On.

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Scouted: Invest in Lightweight Rain Boots to Make Sure Your Footwear Is Spring-Ready

For years, I was vehemently against rain boots. The idea of shoving my feet into a pair of galoshes that swallowed my calves in stiff, thick rubber made my skin crawl. But when more and more brands made ankle-height boots, I started to come around to the idea.

Boot brand BOGS just released their newest line of spring-ready shoes, and with that launch came the Flora Bootie. They sent me a pair to try out and, barring the unavoidably strong scent of rubber, these will now be the rain boots I take into spring and summer.

What these boots have that other ankle-height boots don’t (like Everlane’s Rain Boot or the Hunter Chelsea Boot) is a slimmer silhouette that feels lightweight, instead of hefty and clunky. In the fall and winter, give me a lug sole and a centimeter thick layer of rubber between my sock and the outside air. But in spring and summer, the thought of wearing shoes that weigh multiple pounds as the temperature (and humidity) climbs just seems uncomfortable. At that point, I’d rather risk my feet getting wet than end up with a damp sock caused by sweat from sweltering in personal foot saunas.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Go Red: How To Make Sure You Have Heart Health

Dr. Icilma Fergus is a cardiologist at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, known as Dr. Icy. She and Debora Grandison share the importance of February American Heart Health Month and what you can do to keep your heart healthy.


DR. ICY: No matter what you call it – heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or coronary heart disease – cardiovascular disease means there is a plaque buildup in the walls of your arteries.

When arteries narrow, it becomes more difficult for blood to flow and creates a risk for heart attack or stroke.

Irregular heartbeat or heart valve problems can also cause a heart disease diagnosis.


DEBORA: I am actually living with several cardiovascular issues, including atrial fibrillation, or aFib, which basically means I have an irregular heart beat. I was just 27 when all of this started for me and ended up in intensive care because my heart rate tripled.

It took 20 years before I got an accurate diagnosis, and today, I have an insulin pump and a pacemaker to help me live with cardiovascular disease.

I’ve been able to take what I’m dealing with and turn into positive. I make sure to exercise daily and educate myself on the proper ways to eat.


DR. ICY: Debora is not alone: about half of Black women have some form of cardiovascular disease.

Black women tend to have higher rates of being overweight and diabetes, which puts them at greater risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Among all women, Black women are less likely to engage in physical activity. Other risk factors include cholesterol management, smoking and being cognizant of a family history of heart disease for early action. These are among the prevalent risk factors for Black women and may result in heart disease and stroke but can be helped with appropriate lifestyle changes.


DR. ICY: The good news is that yes, about 80 percent of cardiovascular diseases can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. Some risk factors, like age, gender and family history are, unfortunately, out of our control, but others we can treat or manage, like physical activity and eating habits.


DR. ICY: The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease.


DEBORA: The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women® movement is the trusted, passionate, relevant force for change to end heart disease and stroke in women all over the world. While nearly 80 percent of cardiac events can be prevented, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, claiming the lives of 1 in 3 women.

For 15 years, Go Red for Women has provided a platform for women to come together, raise awareness, fund lifesaving research, advocate for change and improve the lives of all women everywhere. The American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement is nationally sponsored by CVS Health, with additional support from national cause supporters. Connect with us on, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-888-MY-HEART (1- 888-694-3278).


DEBORA: Yes, indeed! Friday, February 1st is National Wear Red Day. We encourage everyone to WEAR RED for awareness. GIVE for the mothers, sisters  and friends that you can’t  bear to live without. SHARE #WearRedAndGive on social media.


DEBORA: We certainly do – we have an amazing community for support, sharing and inspiration to be active and fit, called #GoRedGetFit.

The Facebook group is made possible by our national supporter Macy’s and helps women stay on track with fitness and nutrition goals through quarterly challenges and educational tools.

Join the 20K women who are taking charge of their heart health. It’s easy to join.  Just open Facebook and search #GoRedGetFit. Select the public group and click “Join.”

DEBORA: Go Red for Women’s national sponsor CVS Health is offering heart health screenings at no cost every Thursday in February at MinuteClinics nationwide to help women better understand their risk for heart disease.


DR. ICY: Symptoms can vary between men and women.

For example, women having a heart attack may experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, feeling lightheaded or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.


DR. ICY: Women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, but women should not get comfortable in thinking that there is no one else in their family with heart disease – given the novel risk factors and  lifestyles, heart disease is still possible but  there’s plenty one  can do to dramatically reduce it like getting regular exercise and eating healthy.

Dr. Icilma V. Fergus, MD is Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiovascular Disparities at Mount Sinai Medical Center. Prior to that she served as Chief of the Division of Cardiology at Harlem Hospital Center. Her undergraduate and graduate education were at Barnard College, Columbia University and SUNY Downstate. She completed her residency and chief residency at Albert Einstein Medical Center.

Dr. Fergus is also Mrs. Rowe, wife to Robert Rowe and mother to three lovely children Orion, Arianne and RJ. She has been featured in several magazines newspapers and shows including Girl Friends Magazine, Heart and Soul, New York Daily News and “Being Black in America: CNN series Part 1”. You can find her on twitter @icilmafergusrow, Linkedin, instagram or Facebook and visit the website



Debora Grandison is a 30-year survivor of both heart disease and diabetes and is living life to the fullest with an insulin pump and a pacemaker.

Grandison is very passionate about sharing her journey to educate and advocate others, to save lives and feels privileged to have been selected for the American Heart Associations’ Go Red for Women Nation “Real Women” class of 2019.

Debora serves as a volunteer speaker for the American Heart Association’s Volunteer Committee, The AHA Speaker’s Bureau and The AHA You’re The Cure Advocacy Team. 

Dr. Fergus answers your ‘Text Tom’ questions on the next page. 


Q: What are the symptoms for men?

A: The symptoms for men tend to be more typical –chest pressure, heaviness on the chest ( as if an elephant sitting on the chest, pain radiating down the left arm. This may or may not be accompanied by palpitations and sob. Men may also present with vague symptoms, especially if they have diabetes.

Q: What are steps can be taken for prevention?

A: Prevention is most effectively achieved by managing risk factors – healthy lifestyle intervention is first and foremost. Also it is very important to control blood pressure, weight, diabetes and nutrition. It is important to stay physically active and not smoke. It is important to follow up with health care providers early on especially if there is a family history. The American Heart Association states that heart disease is 80% preventable.

Q: What is considered an elevated heart rate? Should I be concerned with a resting rate 80 that spikes to 125?

A: A normal heart rate or normal sinus rhythm is a heart rate between 60 and 100. Anything above this is considered sinus tachycardia.

Q: Dr., with all these recalls on blood pressure medicine, do you recommend adding apple cider vinegar to keep blood pressure in check?

A: I would say consult with your healthcare provider and pharmacy. The recall has to do with contaminants in the production of the medication and not the medicine itself. There are many alternatives. The apple cider vinegar is great for many things but may have side effects as well such as heart burn or acid reflux.

Q: Dr. Fergus, I was 22 (Black female) when I was diagnosed with a fast heart rate called SVT (Superventrical Tachycardia) but doctors are still all over the place trying to really figure it out. Could this heart condition eventually turn into a cardiovascular disease? I have all the symptoms that were mentioned even while on 2 different beta blockers.

A: SVT has several forms and it depends on which kind you have. You should see a sub-specialist cardiologist called an electrophysiologist who can diagnose and treat. Options may be a beta blocker, calcium channel blocker, an anti-arrhythmic or ablation.

Q: I now have what’s called a heart block. I’m 52. It’s where the electricity in my heart is not getting to the bottom of my heart in a normal manner. My doctor has no idea why I have if. So we’re in the learning discovery phase. The worst case scenario after all testing Is done is I may have to get a small pacer maker. But I passed the stress test on the treadmill.. I blew that out the water. He told me to continue to work out and eat properly.  Is this common in African-American women?

A: Heart block can be congenital (born with it) or from various factors ( an infiltrative condition such as sarcoid, amyloid or an infection such as Lyme disease or chagas). Certain medications or certain anatomy of the heart could also be causative. A sub-specialist cardiologist called an electrophysiologist can diagnose and treat.

I am glad that you did great on the stress test which means your “plumbing” or coronaries are fine. It is the electrical system of your heart that has to be evaluated. This condition is not unique to African-American women.

Q: I had so much pain in my right shoulder that after an MRI I was diagnosed with arthritis. But I also have HBP and constantly feel an upset stomach. Do I need to be concerned about my heart?

A: Anyone who has blood pressure elevations should be checked out to ensure that the heart is stable. An echocardiogram and an EKG would be helpful to start with.

Q: If I wanted to get a cardiological checkup where do I start in order to do preventative work?

A: You can have your primary perform an EKG, you  may be referred to a cardiologist to decide which further testing if any is needed. Deciding on what testing depends on your risk factors and symptoms.

Q: I have AFIB and taking carvedilol 6.25mg, Entresto and Eliqis. Sometimes I get pain in my left arm – elbow to shoulder. It feels like arthritis cause it only happens when it’s about to rain or get cold. I’ve lost 45 pounds and watch what I eat. Is this normal? I’m taking my meds twice a day.

A: If you are taking Entresto, it seems that you may have congestive heart failure as well. You should have had a diagnosis of ischemia ruled out already ( with a stress test, CT angiogram or cardiac cath). If these tests are negative, then you may indeed have arthritis as a cause of your left arm symptoms.

Q: Dr. Icy, I have all symptoms except the back pain. I know I have asthma, allergies, acid reflux, and I am classified as obese (ht 5”8″; wt 273). Diabetes is in family but fortunately, I don’t have it. I am going to a pulmonary doctor in February to see if I have sleep apnea.

I have had a stress test and came back fine. Should I go and see any other specialist to make sure they are looking at everything? How do I know if I don’t have heart issues? Sometimes I have squeezing in my chest then when I take deep breath in it pops loose. Doesn’t happen frequently.

A:  Have you been evaluated by a cardiologist? A cardiac CT ( CTA) may be helpful out coronary artery disease

Q: Why is heart disease only in African-American women & what percentage of Black do you have to be in order to be a statistic or to get heart disease?

A: Cardiovascular disease affects all women, it is the #1 killer of women. Unfortunately, many women who are African-American may not recognize the symptoms, or may not have early diagnosis. This may contribute to  more advanced conditions when the person is finally seen and evaluated.

Q: How can you tell if the numbness in your left hand and arm is an indication of heart disease or just carpal tunnel?

A: You should have an evaluation by your primary doctor and then be referred to a cardiologist if necessary. If you have cardiovascular risk factors, heart disease should be excluded as it is life-threatening and carpal tunnel syndrome is not.

Q: Dr. Icy, I’ve been having muscle pain and spasms in my upper left arm and shoulder. Is this a concern?

A: While it may simply be musculoskeletal, please have an evaluation to ensure that there are no other underlying concerns that are missed. This is especially important if you have a family history of heart disease or any of the cardiovascular risk factors.

Q: My wife was diagnosed with enlarged heart what can we do?

A: Was the diagnosis made by an EKG, or echo, if so, I suggest making an appointment for a heart specialist to decide on whether treatment or observation.

Q: I was diagnosed 10 years ago with A-Fib. I do not take a blood thinner. I am a vegan and I exercise 30 minutes a day a minimum of 5 days a week. Lately I found myself to be very tired. What can I take to increase my energy level or not feel so tired?

A: Atrial fibrillation predisposes to clot formation, hence the recommendation for blood thinners. There is a score (CHADS VASC score) which predicts the risk of getting a stroke or similar condition. I would suggest go in for a check up (blood tests and assessment to see if you are still in afib or have sequela from clot formation).

Q: Please ask the Dr. why when I take my BP meds my head hurts when I wake from a dream.

A: Perhaps you could be tried on different blood pressure  medications. Some may have the side effect of headache for you, or it could be other medications that you are on. Have all of your medication bottles with you when you go in for a visit with your doctor.

Q: Doc what about tingling of the right arm starting with the fingers straight up to the elbow is that a concern?. I went to my doctor he told me to get a brace

A: Get a second opinion if you are still symptomatic, tingling could be the result of other conditions ( spinal compression, other neurological condition etc).


PHOTO: Jules Thomas/Courtesy (Dr. Fergus)





Life & Style – Black America Web


Brad Pitt Is Sure That Angelina Jolie Is Going To Create Drama When It Comes To The Holidays

More than two years after they separated, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are still in the middle of their nasty divorce and custody battle, and a new report claims it is going to be a drama-filled holiday season for the former couple. Could the strange move Jolie’s lawyers made this past week be an indication of unusual things to come?

According to Radar Online, one of Jolie’s lawyers, Joseph Mannis, took the odd step of filing a formal motion with the court to notify them that he will be out of town for a week at Thanksgiving and two weeks at Christmas.

Because of this, Mannis has requested that the court doesn’t have any hearings between Jolie and Pitt during those times.

“Brad’s lawyers are going to ignore something that comes up with the kids that needs immediate attention from the court just because Joe is on vacation?” asked an insider.

The source says that the Once Upon A Time in Hollywood star is concerned that his ex will be ready “to stir up drama” during the holiday season and is going to continue her attempts to make Pitt look like the bad guy, especially if he needs to go to court while her attorney isn’t in town.

However, Pitt isn’t going to let Jolie’s antics keep him from spending time with their six children, says the insider.

Jolie recently made things even worse with Pitt when she threw out a bunch of items that he had left with the kids. The source says that Pitt left antiques, family heirlooms, and sentimental trinkets like old toys with the kids, and when Jolie found them, she threw them all out “without hesitation.”

Even though the divorce drags on, Pitt has moved on and is dating. However, the chances of him walking the red carpet with another celebrity are pretty small, says a pal. Friends do think that Pitt will marry again, but they think he will end up with a woman who has a lower profile.

Insiders say that these last two years have been a nightmare for the actor. And, after decades of relationships with women like Jolie, Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Juliette Lewis, Pitt wants to keep things more private instead of having a public relationship.

Sources say that Pitt is enjoying hanging out with his friends and meeting women through people he trusts, but his top priorities at the moment are his children, his work, and getting some sense of normalcy. He is casually dating, but right now everything is about the kids.

Brad Pitt has stayed relatively quiet since his split from Angelina Jolie, making only two public statements. An insider says he is trying to do what is best for his kids, but he is hurt. Ultimately, his friends want him to find peace and love again.

Celebrity Insider


Peter Dinklage sure makes it sound like Tyrion will die in ‘Game of Thrones’


Fellow watchers on the wall, we must now add one more beloved Game of Thrones character to the endless list of potential and devastating deaths in the upcoming final season.

And while just about every character should be on that list, the Emmy-award winning Peter Dinklage just added fuel to the fire in support of Tyrion Lannister not making the much shorter list of survivors from the battles to come.

In a recent and rare interview with Vulture to promote his starring role in the new HBO film My Dinner with Hervé, Dinklage did what his character does best: delivered some foreboding yet wise words on the bleak future that lies ahead. Read more…

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